Overlooking the Adriatic Sea until a relatively recent past, it then became entirely surrounded by lagoon waters following the construction of the north dam of the Lido of Venice and the formation of what is now called Punta Sabbioni, Sant'Erasmo is the largest of the islands of the Northern Lagoon and the second largest considering the entire lagoon, second only to the Lido of Venice: its length is about 4 Km while the width varies from 500 to 900 meters.
It is known today also with the name Orto di Venezia thanks to its important agri-food activity, testimony of a more extensive production past during the Serenissima, which thanks to its mixed soil of sand and clay allows the cultivation of fresh vegetables recognized for their characteristic goodness and excellent organoleptic value, including the specialty of the Violet Artichoke, the castraure (the apical fruit of the artichoke plant that is picked first, giving space to the subsequent production of the artichokes), and the sparesée (green asparagus with a taste intense).
Already in the 16th century Francesco Sansovino wrote, in his Venetia, a very noble and singular city:
There is also Santo Erasmo with beautiful & delicate vineyards & gardens, from which the city is given a copy of herbs, & fruits, in abundance & perfect.
In the past the island was also known by other names: Lido Mercede or Mancese, linked to a legend of miraculous discovery of a large amount of gold during the construction of the church, Lido Albo for the white sand of the beaches, Lido Bromio for the noise of the waves and Pineta Maggiore during the dogado of Paoluccio Anafesto.
Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries there was an important geological event of transgression (gradual extension of the sea over land that had already emerged, consisting of an overlap of marine deposits) and subsequent regression which caused the union of the various tumbæ allowing the formation of what it is today the present island.
The first human settlements on the island seem to date back to the 15th century to the 12th century BC. and already in Roman times the island played a decisive role on a military level. It began to dispose of the first lands to be cultivated from the seventh century and not surprisingly, the church dedicated to Saints Martyrs Erme and Erasmus (consecrated to Christ the King only in 1929) appears to have been built in 792 thanks to a group of fugitives from Altino.
In the mid-fourteenth century, due to a plague epidemic, the population left the island to be repopulated later when the disease was eradicated. People from all over the Veneto region and beyond, thus started a thriving management of agricultural land. There is no doubt that the moment of maximum splendor of the island was during the Serenissima thanks to the invaluable resource of crops for the lagoon city.
In 1800 the French occupation built a tower south-west of the island facing the port of Lido and after about thirty years it was replaced by the Austrians with another fortification called Torre Massimiliana, whose name derives from its creator the Archduke Maximilian Joseph of Austria-Este. The fort has recently been restored to accommodate temporary exhibitions.
To date there are two main communication routes, one that extends east towards Punta Sabbioni and Lio Grande, and one west towards the Lazzaretto Nuovo and San Francesco del Deserto.
Sant'Erasmo can be reached, in half an hour of navigation, by taking a vaporetto at the Fondamenta Nove stop in Venice, after passing the Murano and Le Vignole stops. There are three boat stops on the island but the best one is Shed, given the possibility of renting a bicycle, the best way to visit the island. In addition to the natural beauty, the vegetable gardens, the fruit trees and the artichoke fields, you can visit the aforementioned Massimiliana Tower and the Church dedicated to Christ the King, as well as relax on the Bacàn beach - where the Venetians traditionally land by boat -.
The island today is experiencing a progressive abandonment by its inhabitants, especially the younger ones, caused by various socio-political factors which if on the one hand maintains its uniqueness and distance from mass tourism, on the other creates an ever increasing difficulty in maintaining that characteristic of inhabited territory, albeit an island one, equipped with various services, including basic necessities.